Fabian Imfeld wins 300 mile race

Fabian Imfeld from Switzerland was able to maintain his comfortable lead all the way to the finish line. After a stay at Pelly Farm that Fabian considers his home away from home, he went back to the Pelly Crossing Finish line. It has been really great to see him come in. All the way he had done very well. Always positive and in a good mood. Fabian had already been with us last year and had experienced issues with a bit of frostbite which meant he could not finish. Not this time! Congratulations!

Tiberiu Useriu has got a similar story. He tried the 430 last year and got very bad frostbite – even though he had already considerable experience with cold weather races. I was very happy to see that, instead of trying to overtake Fabian, which I am sure he wanted with all his heart, he actually took the rest his body needed. Lesson learned. Tibi finished. Zero problems with frostbite this time.

The Romanian also has a very interesting story and I think it is okay if I share it here. In his home country he is famous for  his athletic achievement but also his life change. The short version is that he had a very difficult youth and I am sure a lot of people would have thought that his entire life would go the wrong way. A lost case for society. He stumbled and fell. Tibi realised he needed to change and he got up again. Now he is helping kids in Romania who are faced with the same or similar problems to get back on track. Doing these races he can show them that anything is possible. And he is leading a project with a great team of people to create a permanently marked long distance hike trail in Romania. An exciting project that creates jobs and will help with tourism. Congratulations, Tibi! And good luck with your work!

As those two were approaching the finish line we had still hopes that Patrick O Toole and Paul Deasy from Ireland would also get to Pelly. However, Patrick had to be pulled at McCabe due frostbite on a finger. Paul originally left that checkpoint but about 10 km in he experienced stomach problems and just could not get warm. So, he made the right decision and did not continue.

All athletes and crew arrived safely back in Whitehorse. Some hours ago we had a very nice little party at the Coast High Country Inn. Trail stories were exchanged and I have seen a lot of happy faces.

Safe trip home everyone!

On the way to Pelly Farm

Fabian Imfeld from Switzerland is still in the lead. He was the first to head on to the Pelly River this evening. Those of you who have been following the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra for a few years know that it has been a while since we last were able to use the river to get to Pelly Farm. For many years now the river ice has not been good enough to allow a full route on it. Which is always a shame because it is very spectacular. On the other hand, it is also very challenging because it is cold and the river does not go out in a straight line. If not using a GPS one might think the farm is just a mystery. It never appears on the horizon when people expect it to. For those who make it, Pelly Farm is a highlight. Dale and Sue are great hosts and athletes enjoy it so much there, they usually find it hard to leave again.

Tiberiu Useriu is currently resting at Pelly Crossing and is planning on getting up at 3 AM. He has had a rough day as his stomach has been acting up. So, I am glad he is giving his body a break.

Further back, on their way to McCabe Creek Patrick O Toole and Paul Deasy are faced with a totally different challenge: they have to maintain a perfect strategy in order to make the cut-off. Due to a delay in Carmacks they received a 6 1/2 hour time credit but it still means they can’t slow down too much if they want to make it.

While the crew got ready at Pelly Crossing earlier today, some scratched athletes came by for a visit. Patrick Sumi, Hervé Acosta, Hugo Victor do Carmo, Maciej Zyto, Konrad Jedraszewski and Russ Reinbolt all came to say “hi” and spend some time at the checkpoint. They seemed in a good mood and enjoyed the hospitality of the Selkirk First Nation who invited them for a meal.

Now our volunteers and guide crew are resting. Mark Kelly is working hard to get the next photos uploaded.

I really enjoyed a visit from Freida who is our contact here for the usage of the building we are in and represents the Selkirk First Nation. One day I need to come back and spend some time here when I am not so busy. I find it very inspiring to listen and ask questions about the culture and learn about values, like respect for the elders and love for nature, how traditions are kept and the community is developing.


Only 4 athletes left in the 300 mile race

The 300 mile distance is still dominated by Fabian Imfeld (Switzerland) and Tiberiu Useriu (Romania). So far it seems nothing can get to them. Fabian currently is at McCabe Creek checkpoint and Tiberiu is about 10 miles south.

Yesterday afternoon Shelley Gellatly (Canada), our only athlete on xc-skis, asked to get a ride back to Whitehorse because of problems with cold feet.

Victor Hugo do Carmo (Switzerland) who had been in third position had to scratch due to frostbite on his fingers. Like all other cold injuries this year it is not severe but enough to have to withdraw him from the race.  But I am getting ahead of myself … Last night, as we all were getting ready for a quiet night, we did get a 911 SPOT alert from Phil Cowell. When that happens we always must assume that we are dealing with a life threatening situation. With the help of Jo Stirling from Race HQ and the Ken Lake crew we have been able to resolve the situation very quickly. A big thank you also to the RCMP who were ready to go in no time. Luckily we had Bernard at Ken Lake who was able to check on the situation and the RCMP did not have get involved. It turned out that Phil had frostbite on his fingers. His friends, Lee Francis and Gareth Jones (both from England) were with him at time and they tried to keep him warm and safe. Bernard transported Phil to Ken Lake where Trish and Sarah took good care of him.

Lee and Gareth initially continued and Russ Reinbolt (USA) eventually overtook them. All of them knew they may have a hard time making our 4 days 12 hours cut-off for Carmacks. Lee and Gareth were given a 2 hour time credit for helping Phil. By the time they found out about it, they had already made up their mind and also stated that likely it would not have been enough. I have not had a chance to talk to Russ, yet. However, feedback from the crew indicates that he had a hard time with his feet. That is not unusual in an ultra race but considering the distance still to go he probably had come to the conclusion that he could get himself in serious trouble if he ignored it. So, it was definitely the right decision.

In the meantime Paul Deasy and Patrick O Toole from Ireland were racing towards Carmacks and they arrived well before the cut-off. When the medical team checked Patrick they found what they believe is frostbite on one of his fingertips but in a very early stage it is not always obvious and easy to be certain. So, it was decided to have another look at it when Patrick gets up again.

All this means that at the moment we have only 4 out of 21 athlete left in the 300 mile race. That in itself is not unusual for the MYAU we have had several years with numbers this low or even lower. However, we always suffer with the athletes and constantly keep our fingers crossed that we see no more DNFs. The nice thing is that amongst those who could not reach their goal many have kept a very positive attitude. Several athletes already approached me and asked when they could sign up for 2021. They enjoyed the adventure, learned many valuable lessons and want to try again next year.

For those still in the race it’s difficult to predict what the next couple of days have in store for them. It should be getting warmer but that is not necessarily an advantage. Fresh snow and warmer temperatures could result in soft trails again. We will see and just take it “one step at a time.”


More finishers and more athletes scratching

Another busy day on the trail and at the checkpoints is coming to an end. More 100 milers were able to reach the finish line. These are Richard Charles (New Zealand), followed by Steve Jones (England) and Gerald Zechner (Austria). As I write this the father/son team Joel and Hans-Jörg Hegner (Switzerland) have only a couple of miles left to go. A bit further behind are 100 milers Terry Gilmartin (England), Mark St. Pierre (Canada) and Donald Smith (Canada).

A few athletes in the 100 mile distance also had to stop their race: Julian Coulter (Canada), Sam Jeremy (Canada) and Alex de Sain (The Netherlands). Julian had frostbite on his fingers was brought out to get into an ambulance at the Overland Parking Lot. He received treatment at the hospital but did not have to stay there. However, he will get further treatment and should fully recover. His friend Sam was fine but did not want to continue alone. Alex de Sain quit at Dog Grave Lake. He is fine just a bit slow and I am assuming it was a pretty heavy sled that slowed him down too much. Logistics did not allow for Alex to come out today. So, I will spend another night in the Yukon wilderness with our crew.

Quick update also on Chad and Virginia. Chad believes it was not lack of drinking but he was not eating enough sugars and got too low on energy. Virginia’s frostbite is getting treatment. Like Julian she did not have to stay in hospital and emailed today that she is fine.

On to the 300 miles.

Still in the lead and going very strong is Fabian Imfeld (Switzerland). Followed be a very determined Tiberiu Useriu (Romania). Both of them had to withdraw last year due to frostbite. In Fabian’s case it was only minor. Tibi’s problems were more severe. Due to the right treatment decisions, quick evacuation and state of the art treatment at Whitehorse hospital he fully recovered. So, to see these doing so well feels really good. Now they just must not forget that things can change any minute here. Hot on their heels is Swiss runner Victor Hugo. The Ken Lake checkpoint crew is looking forward to receiving them.

Unfortunately, also some 300 milers had to stop today. Kike (Spain) made the right decision last night to bivvy due to bronchitis. Other athletes who scratched are Maciej Zyto (Poland) and Konrad Jedraszwski (Poland). They are still out on the course in a cabin and waiting to be brought out tomorrow. Crew has seen them and they are fine. It’s a bit unusual that we leave athletes waiting over night but seeing there is no emergency it’s better the guides get some rest. It is safer than travelling at night. They have all the food the need, gear and a cabin. Other athletes who could not continue are Dirk Heller (Germany) due to small frostbite on nose and Vincent Turgeon (Canada) because of exhaustion. All other 300 milers are still going. Fingers crossed those south of Braeburn will be able to continue.

Lot’s of people at Braeburn Lodge tonight! A big thank you to Steve and Lee for hosting us once more.

Later on we should hopefully see the first photos by Mark Kelly in our gallery. Tomorrow we will open Carmacks checkpoint and possibly also McCabe Creek. Braeburn will close.

It will be a cold night. With temps down to – 35° Celsius possibly the coldest of this race. At Race HQ we will be glued and organise the logistics for tomorrow.

Trails north of Braeburn continue to challenge the athletes. Wind and fresh snow, especially on the long lakes, mean that footing is soft participants need to be careful not to lose the way.

John Berryman wins 100 mile race

Yesterday at 16:22 local athlete John Berryman arrived at Braeburn Lodge with his fatbike and won the 100 mile race. Next up was Kevin Leahy from Northern Ireland who won the foot category after impressing everyone with his super strong performance.

Local runner Virginia Sarrazin arrived third overall and won the women’s foot category. Unfortunately, she had to be diagnosed with frostbite on her feet and was brought to Whitehorse Hospital by friends.

As Virginia was approaching the final miles to Braeburn our crew attended an SOS message from Chad Barber who at that time was 6.7 miles south of us. He was developing hypothermia. To my knowledge he had no frostbite but could not get warm and was starting to get disorientated. Of course the right thing would have been avoiding to get into this situation but it looks like it was a good idea to initiate the SOS. I will know more when I talk to him and our crew member who brought him in. Chad is now resting.

We also already know that James Binks, who currently is at Dog Grave Lake, will not continue beyond. The entire team would have loved to see race veteran James finish but I am sure that, as always, he did the right thing.

Before all this, i.e. yesterday morning Dirk Groth (Australia) and Lana Rogzinsky (Canada) had to end their adventure. Along with Darren Hardy (UK), Vincent Turgeon (Canada), Frederik Strange (Denmark) and Walter Hösch (Germany). Dirk had problems with a knee, Lana had issues with one foot, with Vincent and Frederik it seems to have been exhaustion and Walter suffered from frostnip on his fingers. They are all safe and back in Whitehorse.

Fabian Imfeld (Switzerland) who is in our 300 mile race has reached Braeburn and is looking very strong.

All other athletes, with the exception of Alex de Sain (The Netherlands), have reached or passed Dog Grave Lake checkpoint.

Congratulations to the winners/finishers! All who could not achieve their goal this year and need recovery time I wish you all the best and that you get well soon.

We currently still have crew at Dog Grave Lake, Braeburn and Ken Lake. The latter is struggling with a totally different challenge. It seems some squirrels enjoyed the comfort of the cabin there and caused damage. Some years ago Bernard and crew had to deal with bear damage.

All this is a reminder that we are in the middle of the wilderness here. It is beautiful but if making mistakes it can also be merciless. In addition, it is also a strong reminder that cold weather injuries do not only happen at – 40 degrees Celsius.

I am very proud of our crew! All oft hem are working hard and through the night to make sure the MYAU is a safe as it can be.

Now is a new day and we will see what it has got in store for us.

For frequent news and many great photos and stories I recommend our facebook group: On our official website we will hopefully get the first photo uploads in the gallery later today.

Brian Stuart from Whitehorse wins MYAU 2020 marathon

Almost in time, at 10:32 this morning, the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra started at Shipyard’s Park in Whitehorse. Before everybody left, I had some good news. The amount of really soft trail was less than expected. The athletes still had to face soft trails but not to the extent we anticipated. Also, the trails that Gary Rusnak from our crew put in to avoid large sections of overflow, were still passable. At about – 10 degrees C temperatures were also rather mild. So, it’s no big surprise that all participants were eager to get going and had big smiles on their faces. The good mood continued on down the trail.

Our marathoners normally have to do an “out and back” at the end of their race of 5 km, i.e. 10 km total. However, after about 3 km of this stretch of trail new overflow had appeared over night. The decision was made to turn the runners around at that point. That means that it was not quite the marathon distance today but I would say almost all runners were rather happy with the change. Congratulations to all finishers!

The fastest runner today was local Brian Stuart. It took him 03:49 to reach Muktuk Adventures. With a time of 03:56 Josh Kramer from Guelph/Canada took 2nd place. The 3rd rank went to Andrew Miller from Pembroke/Canada. For the full results please see our results table.

Currently in the lead for the 100 miles is biker John Berryman from Whitehorse. Not much longer and he will reach our remote checkpoint Dog Grave Lake. Next up is Kevin Leahy from Ireland who is in the foot category.

Since Tiberiu’s SPOT tracker has not updated for a little while it is hard to say if he still is the leading 300 miler. Fabian Imfeld from Switzerland may have overtaken him.

Unfortunately, two athletes have had to end their races. Lucile Barbaudy from France was not feeling 100% confident. Her body created more heat than it should have. At first sight this may seem like a good thing but it can of course also be an indicator that something is wrong. She is already back in Whitehorse. Just like Andy Gregory who has had mechanical issues with his bike.

Everybody else has been in a good mood and looking forward to first night out in the Yukon wilderness.

Often that first night results in numerous “help” messages. With slightly milder temperatures maybe we are lucky and they will all continue. I keep my fingers crossed.

The crew has done a great job on a very busy day! Thank you all. And thank you Muktuk Adventures for allowing us to be here. This is such a unique place. I am typing these lines in the main building in the living room. All around me are retired sled dogs who I am sure are wondering why on earth there are all these people out there and they pull the pulks themselves.

Message from SPOT Control

We are trying to check all SPOT units are working properly and to enable us to do this before the start tomorrow morning, please could athletes go outside – either still tonight or early tomorrow morning, switch on their SPOT’s and press “track” mode and stay outside for 10-15 minutes. The following athletes do not need to do this as their SPOTS are already showing as tracking: 101 / 102 / 103 / 113 / 116 / 302 / 313 / 315 / 319 / 320. We will be looking out for you … Thanks!

Race Start at Shipyard’s Park

Not far from Whitehorse there is a large area of overflow. That is why today crew member Gary Rusnak spent many hours trying to find a route that allows us to avoid these dangerous spots. I then went and checked the area myself. The decision has been made that we will gather for our start at Shipyards’s Park tomorrow (Jan. 30th) and hopefully get going at 10:30 AM. Gary will check the trail one more time before we start. Should he encounter new overflow or other dangers we will transfer the athletes to Takhini and start there. Start time would be whenever all people and gear are there. hopefully no later than noon. Fingers crossed we can take off from Whitehorse.

The bad news is that the trails we had to put in to avoid the overflow are very soft. Impossible to ride with a fat bike and really tough on runner’s feet. It will not be fun … But that’s nature and a challenge that will be the same for everyone.

Our pre-race dinner was great. We kicked it of with a very interesting presentation by Dr. Poole on Frostbite and Hypothermia. We dealt with some admin and of  course enjoyed some very good food (thank you Coast High Country Inn!).

Athletes are getting their drop bags ready and can drop these off until 10 PM. Crew is packing and getting ready, too.

Everybody is eager to get going 🙂

MYAU 2020 Briefing

This is just a short new post. I promised the athletes I would create a pdf-file of my briefing notes and make these available for download. It’s a lot of information and does of course not include everything else that was talked about. For those of you not competing it may be an interesting to read, too. It gives you an idea what topics we covered.

Briefing MYAU 2020

Almost there!

The last days here in the Yukon have been very busy. Many athletes have arrived early to participate in the training courses, offered by Shelley Gellatly and Stewart and Jo Stirling. The feedback from the athletes has been really good. As athletes Maciej Zyto said to me today: “It’s almost as great as a race in itself!”

Parallel to the courses more and more crew have arrived and we have been busy preparing checkpoint material, finalising logistics, doing volunteer briefings, checking the trails, preparing markers, buying supplies and a lot more. Thank you all for the effort you have already put into making this another successful Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra.

All athletes who had not participated in a course are here now, too. Of course they are now anxious to get going. I am sure many sleds are being pack and re-packed as I write these lines. One more day and we all finally head north.

After a really long cold spell temperatures have warmed up considerably. In and around Whitehorse we have had – 15 to – 20 degrees C and tomorrow it may even be + 1 degree C. The warmer weather was accompanied by a lot of fresh snow and more possibly on the way before it will get colder again.

The marathoners may be lucky and actually run one of the warmest races we have ever had with temperatures between – 5 and – 15 degrees C. However, the warm weather comes with a price. Trails will be soft and there will be more overflow. Right now the first half of the marathon distance is soft and there is a good chance everybody will get their feet wet. So, all athletes please be prepared! At the trail briefing tomorrow we will have a final report and our crew will also go on the trail again immediately before the start for a last update. Possibly a lot of the overflow will be frozen again. The trail for the second half of the marathon looks very good.

The 100 milers and certainly the 300 milers may get it all – a tropical start going down to lows of – 40 a few days later.

One good news is that for the first time after many years the Pelly River trail is good enough for us to use it.

A big thank you to the Quest and the Canadian Rangers for the many hours of trail breaking!

Our SPOTs have arrived with quite a delay, i.e. today instead of last week. That is why the units were not handed out today. We will distribute the SPOTs after the briefing tomorrow instead.